To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

Last Friday night, 13 September 2015, our world was rudely awakened by the news of terrorist attacks and bombings in 7 locations in Paris. 129 lost their lives and 300 wounded. Of course none of those who died have any idea that their lives would be cut short that night. They were innocent victims who were just taking time off to relax with their friends, colleagues or family members in restaurants, concert hall or a stadium watching an international soccer game. Naturally, the people of Paris were gripped with fear and terror after the bloodbath. No one feel secure anymore. Many may wonder what will happen next. One moment there is peace and the next chaos, pain, and sadness.

Have you ever wondered about your future too? How are you going to cope with life’s uncertainties that lie ahead of you? Sometimes thinking about it may cause you to worry and even get depressed. You might be tempted to doubt and even give up your Christian faith.
 
The Christians in Philippi faced similar difficulties as they lived in a Roman society that was not too friendly to their faith. In fact the church was born in conflict. Paul and Silas were flogged and incarcerated in jail. The fledging church was left behind to fend for itself when Paul and Silas had to leave Philippi. Many years later Paul wrote a letter to encourage them to remain faithful in their faith by using himself as an example. Paul showed them how it is possible to face their darkest moment with joy. Paul himself was in prison. In fact he was waiting for the verdict from Caesar’s court. The decision could result either in his release or execution. But even with this uncertainty, he could still exclaimed, “I will also continue to rejoice” (Phil.1:18).
 
How could Paul maintain his joy in difficult circumstances? The answer lies in his confidence in the prayers of God’s people as well as the presence of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:19). Instead of fear and discouragement, he trusted in prayer and the Spirit’s presence.  Secondly, Paul had settled the one supreme goal of his life: to magnify Christ whether by life or by death (Phil.1:20-23). So, it did not matter what tomorrow holds, he would continue to live for Christ. Finally, Paul rested in God holding the “steering wheel” of his life. If God is in control, then He will also work out all His purposes in his life. That’s why Paul could look forward to serving God among them once he was released from prison (Phil. 1:24-26). With such confidence, goal and assurance, Paul could approach all life’s circumstances with peace and joy in Christ. Who could lose if he could say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”? (Phil.1:21).

Rev. Mark Tay